Vote ‘Yes’ on the Mercer County ballot question on Nov. 2

By Vanessa Sandom and David Sandahl

If you are a Mercer County voter wondering about the Mercer County Question on the ballot, let’s take a quick expedition together.

Hop on a bike and join us as we ride north from Brandon Farms, the largest neighborhood in our town. In a couple of minutes, we’ll pass through the Twin Pines athletic fields, a joint project of the Lawrence and Hopewell Valley municipalities and Mercer County, then pedal around to the entrance of Mercer Meadows Park.

In the park, we can follow the Lawrence Hopewell Trail, stroll around the Pole Farm historic exhibit, join our friends and family at the Rosedale Park picnic venue, fish for trout in the lake, or watch the dogs play in their park. A little bit further along, we’ll pass the County equestrian stables and the educational gardens kept by Mercer Master Gardeners.

On the other side of Mercer County, we could start at the West Windsor Community Farmer’s Market to pick up locally-grown produce, then head east to 2,500 acre Mercer County Park covering parts of West Windsor, Hamilton, and Lawrence. Nearby we can find preserved farmland and protected municipal open space

From the Lee Turkey Farm in East Windsor to South Riverwalk Park in Trenton and from Baldpate Mountain in Hopewell Township to over a dozen preserved farms in Robbinsville, thousands of acres have been protected by the Mercer County Open Space Preservation Trust Fund Tax. Along with other programs, over one acre of every four in Mercer County has been preserved.

Leveraged over the years through partnerships with state and local governments, private landowners, and non-profit land conservancies, proceeds from the voter-approved county open space tax have been used to preserve open space, farmland, and recreational areas across Mercer County.

But even preserved land sometimes needs help. Destructive insects like the Emerald Ash Borer and the Spotted Lanternfly ravage trees and crops and invasive plants like Phragmites overwhelm native species to tip the natural environment out of balance. Extreme weather events damage structures like footbridges, trails, and even natural waterways.

Under the current open space tax allocation formula, 70% of receipts are dedicated to land acquisition, 20% to develop park amenities and historic preservation, and 10% to stewardship activities such as habitat protection and forest management.

The Mercer County Question on the General Election Ballot asks voters to approve a change in the allocation formula to make more funds available for park amenities and preservation (30%) and increase funding for stewardship activities (20%). Fifty percent (50%) of new proceeds would be dedicated to continued land acquisition. Following the change in the allocation formula, there will continue to be adequate funding for County land preservation efforts and acquisition grants to towns and local land conservancies.

We enthusiastically support the Mercer County Question and encourage all Mercer County voters to support it as well. Vote “Yes” on the Mercer County Question to continue land preservation, protect our preserved lands, and make preserved lands more accessible to all of our residents. It is a gift to ourselves and all our future generations.

Vanessa Sandom is a former mayor and David Sandahl is a former deputy mayor of Hopewell Township.


  1. I’m glad to see someone discussing this ballot question, but in trying to decide whether to vote yes or no on it, I reached the decision that it would be better to say no.
    No change will be made to the amount of money collected. Instead, the amount of money dedicated to acquiring land will be reduced. If you think one acre of every four is enough, you may be satisfied with this, but I grew up in Mercer County, and am continually surprised by how much development continues to gobble up our remaining green space.
    If the proposed change had been to increase stewardship while reducing land acquisition a little, I probably would have voted yes, but the increase in funding for “park amenities and historic preservation” seems to me like a way to shift a budget item that should be decided on for individual projects to a pot of money that the county controls with little oversight.
    Maybe I’m wrong, and I’m open to learning more, but as happens too often with ballot questions, the pros and cons and whys and wherefores are not thoroughly discussed on governmental websites, League of Women Voters documents, or local papers.

  2. I voted no on this one. I think any reduction in the ability to preserve additional land is contrary to the overall intent. You can always think of a way to increase funding for upkeep and maintenance (obtaining grants, for example). But once a piece of pristine land is developed, or a farm passes out of existence, the chance of preserving it is gone. The result of this proposal would be to reducing the amount of money available for acquiring land by nearly 29%. I think that’s false economy.

  3. I too am voting No on this and agree with the earlier postings. This proposal re-allocates existing funds towards parks and historical preservation and away from land acquisition which is desperately needed more than ever; it’s needed to protect our native plant/animal/insect species, support the aquifer, limit erosion, water contaminants, provide habitat for protected migratory species and pollinators. Not all land needs to be accessible in the form of parkland nor should be adopt such a mindset to open spaces. Open space needs to be left wild first not developed for the casual hiker and wildlife corridors need to be retained for the safety of both animals and humans. having broken parcels of land only exacerbates human-animal conflict so the more open space that can be protected the better and the time to protect now when the pressure to develop for the convenience of humans is great, Wouldn’t funds for maintaining historical sites come from historical preservations groups anyway? Why would $ need to be re-allocated from this fund? Park projects and historical preservation should not try to parasitize this fund, there are other funds that could provide any needed $ for maintenance

  4. Yes vote will help pay for this unneeded project. Property already belongs to the county. NOT my idea of open space preservation. What happened to the Belle Mountain ski slope that the county had years ago? How many residents of the county use the Equestrian Center? Preserving the land and planting more trees on these properties would be more beneficial to everyone. https://mercerme.com/mercer-county-park-commission-approves-plan-for-future-of-moores-station-quarry/

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